Kerry raises $5 million, steps up criticism of Bush strategies in Iraq

Democrat calls violence result of failed judgment, says U.S. can't back out

April 14, 2004|By Matea Gold | Matea Gold,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BOSTON - On a day when President Bush sought to assure the nation about his handling of Iraq, Sen. John Kerry was touting his own approach to end instability there, reiterating his call for an internationalization of the country's security and reconstruction efforts.

Throughout a rainy day of campaigning in Providence, R.I., and Boston, and in a commentary published yesterday in The Washington Post, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee argued that the recent eruption of violence in Iraq is the result of "a failure of diplomacy."

"As we stand here today, America is carrying virtually the entire burden of Iraq almost alone," Kerry told donors assembled for a luncheon fund-raiser at a Providence hotel.

"Yes, there are some other countries that are participating in small ways," he said. "Yes, there are a few other troops on the ground. But who in America doesn't understand that our more than 110,000 forces or so are bearing the greatest burden?"

The Massachusetts senator's increasingly sharp remarks about Iraq are a marked contrast to the more tentative approach he first took after an explosion of violence there two weeks ago.

Initially, Kerry stressed his support for the troops and reiterated his call for more international cooperation.

But yesterday, he was more pointed and sought to make a direct connection between the attacks by Iraqi insurgents and Bush's handling of the situation.

"There's obviously been a massive failure of security in the last weeks, and that's come about because of a failure of judgment about how difficult this was and what we needed to do to accomplish it," he told a CBS affiliate in St. Louis.

"I still ask the question, why is America almost alone?"

Speaking hours before Bush addressed the country in a prime-time news conference, Kerry said the president owes Americans an explanation of how the United States plans to restore order in Iraq.

"There are some very unanswered questions about where we're headed in Iraq," he told an NBC affiliate in Phoenix.

The senator has said repeatedly that the United States should involve the United Nations as a full partner in the rebuilding of an Iraqi civilian government and reconstruction of the country's infrastructure.

In his Post commentary, Kerry wrote that the United States should bolster the standing of U.N. representative Lakhdar Brahimi, who is working to negotiate an interim Iraqi government, by pledging to back any plan he develops that has the support of Iraqi leaders.

Kerry called on NATO to oversee an operation in Iraq in order to get more foreign troops into the country, and he said that the United States should deploy more of its own troops in the short term.

The senator also said he would work to bring the Iraqi oil reserves on line to help finance the country's reconstruction.

Most important, Kerry said, the United States must involve other nations in the stabilization of Iraq.

"You have three choices here," he told about 400 people at a town hall meeting at the University of Rhode Island, Providence.

"One, you can cut and leave. That's unacceptable. Two, you can do exactly what we're doing today and continue down the road, which is a guarantee of much greater expense to the American people and much greater risk to our soldiers.

"Or No. 3, you can work hard to get other countries to take a stake in something they have a legitimate interest in the outcome of. And that's the route, in my judgment, we should have gone in the first place."

Meanwhile, Kerry spent much of his day raising money.

In Providence, about 800 donors contributed about $1 million at a luncheon. Last night, nearly 3,000 supporters - including a slew of Massachusetts officials, actor Ben Affleck and singer Stephen Stills - attended a Boston gala that raised more than $4 million.

While still greatly outmatched by Bush's $180 million war chest, the Democratic candidate has raised money at a faster-than-expected clip in the past month.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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